Police Support Unit (UK)
Police Support Unit training in the United Kingdom is voluntary tactical training undertaken by selected candidates that provides students with the skills required to safely and effectively deal with a variety of public order situations outside the remit or capability of regular divisional officers.
PSU trained officers in the UK are commonly referred to as Level 2, Mutual Aid Trained (MAT), or PSU.
The majority of UK Forces use Mercedes Sprinter Vans, known as 'Carriers', as standard transport for PSUs. These vehicles are equipped with mesh window shields and outfitted with storage compartments for officers' riot and CBRN kit. Carrier drivers must undergo specialist driver training in 'riot conditions' before qualifying as a carrier driver.
Standard kit for PSU officers consists of a transparent acrylic riot shield, a baton, a visored 'NATO' helmet, shin and elbow guards, along with fireproof coveralls when required. This level of protection allows officers to deal with a variety of violent situations, including riots, football violence and suspects armed with a variety of weapons. Some PSU teams are also dual-trained as first-line responders for CBRN incidents and carry relevant detection kit as well as major incident equipment.
PSU officers are trained to a higher standard of operational readiness than their divisional counterparts. Training exercises undertaken encompass a variety of public order scenarios; officers will undergo extensive riot training including being petrol bombed in large scale engagements, prison clearance tactics, football stadium scenarios, night club scenarios, aircraft, rail and various 'angry-man' scenarios, as well as additional specialist training. However due to recent budget cuts a lot of forces have cut some of these training scenarios most notably angry man. PSU units spend considerable time training with other specialist police teams as well as certain military units.
A PSU consists of:
All officers will be trained to the common minimum standards as defined in the ACPO Public Order Tactical Trainers Manual. The grades are dependent on the training that the officer has received.
- Level 1 - these officers (normally full-time PSU) receive regular training which can be every five weeks receiving training in shield tactics, violent person, petrol bombing and training in house entry and search. All public order officers need to be fit; a Level 1 officer must be able to run 1000 metres, dressed in full protective equipment whilst carrying a long shield, in less than 6 minutes.
- Level 2 - These officers are drawn from Boroughs, Divisions or Areas and some specialist units; they receive the same training as Level 1 officers but only attend twice a year for two days (or in some forces a 3 day course every 12 months). Notably the metropolitan police require a 2 day course every year to qualify this can be extended by 6 months depending on operational need essentially an officer can go up to 18 months without retraining and still be deployable. This can be extended based on need. Level 2 officers must be able to run 500 metres dressed in full protective equipment whilst carrying a long shield in less than 2 mins 45 secs. If an officer fails any of the runs they are returned to their Borough/Division/Area without receiving training or qualification. This was the old standard or determining operational fitness however now officers are required to achieve 6.4 on the beep test in their gym kit (own clothes) to qualify for level 2. The long shields the officers carry are 5'6" tall, 1'11" wide and weigh 17 lbs.
- Level 3 - All other police officers are classed as being level 3 trained, this they will have received in their last week at training school, their training includes all foot duty cordons, and mounted branch deployments. This training is delivered in approximately a half a day class.
Most police forces maintain full-time PSU sections whose role is to provide a wide range of specialist services in addition to high visibility core policing. Forces that do not maintain a full-time PSU section will have PSU trained officers in other roles (such as standard response roles) who can be called upon by a rota system.
As well as PSU they (full-time units) may be called, dependent on the police force:
- Support Group (Avon and Somerset)
- Tactical Support Group (Leicestershire Constabulary, Surrey Police, Kent Police)
- Force Support Unit (Hampshire Constabulary)
- Operational Support Unit (Ministry of Defence Police, British Transport Police, Lancashire Constabulary, Lincolnshire Police, West Midlands Police, West Yorkshire Police (formerly Operation Target Team), South Wales Police)
- Tactical Aid Unit (Greater Manchester Police)
- Force Support Group (Devon and Cornwall Police)
- Divisional Support Unit (Hertfordshire Constabulary)
- Territorial Support Group (Metropolitan Police, Nottinghamshire Police)
- Matrix Disruption Team (Merseyside Police)
- Vector (Cheshire Police)
- Area Support Group (Northumbria Police)
- Task Force/Operational Support Services (South Yorkshire Police)
- Operational Support Group (Essex Police)
The core functions of the support unit, dependent on the police force or service are:
- Public order/Riot Control
- Apprehension of dangerous offenders
- Cell relocation of problem prisoners
- Security/VIP/Royalty searches
- Military Convoy/Hi-Risk Prisoner Escort
- Missing person search
- Method of entry (MOE) or Door breaching
- Critical/Major Incident Response
- Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear (CBRN) Response
- Pool of Authorised Firearm Officers
- Decoy Ops/Test Purchase/Surveillance/Proactive Operations
- Rope Access and Confined-Space Search Teams
- Body Recovery Teams
- Divisional/Borough Support
Other PSU elements
- Dog Section
- Mounted Section
- Firearms unit
As with their full-time counterparts, some Special Constables are trained in public order duties, including policing of football matches and demonstrations. In West Yorkshire Police, 24 specials have received Level 2 PSU - Police Support Unit training, and have become part of the 'Operation Target' team. PSU Level 2 training is also available to Special Constables of Police Scotland, where SC's are deployed as an integral part of regular PSUs.
- Operational Support Unit (Ministry of Defence Police)
- Special Constabulary
- Police Intelligence
- Operations Support Group - New South Wales Police Force, Australia equivalent.
- Police Tactical Unit (Hong Kong) - Hong Kong Police
- "Dyfed-Powys Police - Public Order". Best Value Review Inspection Reports. HMIC. March 2003. Retrieved 1 March 2003.
- Kent Police M07 Public Order - Policy (accessed 05.01.06)
- Metropolitan Police - Public Order Training (accessed 05.01.07)[dead link]
- Specials magazine (Published om behalf of the Home Office) Autumn 2005
- Gallery of photographs from the 31st March 1990 Poll Tax riot in London
- City of London Police - Public Order Policy
- Hampshire Police Force Support Unit - Dress Code
- Kent Police (M07 Public Order - Policy) Police Support Unit